Sexual Perversity in Chicago

Written by David Mamet

Tuesday 5th October to Saturday 9th October 2004

Directed by Pete Woodward

Do men really think about sex every 7 seconds?

It has long been acknowledged that Mamet's ear for the tough, authentic voice of urban America is unsurpassed in modern theatre. This is expressed in this play where Bernie, Danny, Deborah and Joan, driven by impulses both primitive and subtle, grapple with themselves and each other in their desire to establish relationships of real fulfilment. And always, it seems, the prize remains tantalisingly out of reach.
Often hilarious, always perceptive, this play unflinchingly addresses the fears and longings that we all, perhaps, have had to face.

AuthorDavid Mamet

David Mamet (b 1947)

Born in Flossmoor, Illinois, David Mamet is an award winning writer, who studied at Goddard College in Vermont and at the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York before venturing into the professional world of the Theatre.

He began his career as an actor and director before achieving success in 1976 with three Off-Off Broadway plays, 'The Duck Variations', 'Sexual Perversity in Chicago', and 'American Buffalo'. In 1981, Mamet turned his attention to screenwriting and made an impressive debut with his first screenplay, 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', which he adapted from the novel by James Cain. In 1984, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for 'Glengarry Glen Ross' which recreated the atmosphere of a gritty Chicago real estate office in which Levene, an aging salesman, is about to be sacked. He followed up in 1988 with 'Speed the Plow' which exposes the dirty underside of another industry - show business. Perhaps his most controversial play, however, came in 1992 with 'Oleanna', a two-character drama involving charges of sexual harassment between a male professor and one of his female students.

Mamet has taught at Goddard College, the Yale Drama School and New York University. His awards include the Joseph Jefferson Award, Obie Award, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Outer Circle Award, Society of West End Theatre Award, Pulitzer Prize, Dramatists Guild Hall-Warriner Award, American Academy Award and Tony Award. and he has penned a number of other critically acclaimed screenplays including 'The Verdict', 'The Untouchables', 'Glengarry Glen Ross' and 'Wag the Dog'.

The most recognised element of Mamet's style is his sparse, clipped dialogue. Although reminiscent of such playwrights as Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, Mamet's dialogue is so unique that it has become known as "Mametspeak". His language is not so much naturalistic as it is a poetic impression of streetwise jargon. Other signature elements of Mamet's style include minimalism and a lack of stage directions. Noted for his strong male characters, Mamet's plays often deal with the decline of morality in a world which has become an emotional and spiritual wasteland.

PlaySexual Perversity in Chicago

'Sexual Perversity in Chicago' is one of David Mamet's earliest plays. Written in 1974, it premiered at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. As the title implies, it is set in various locations (bars, offices, apartments, the beach, etc.) in Mamet's home town of Chicago.

The main plot point is Danny and Deborah's relationship, perpetuating much of the dialogue about men and women. Their romance is quickly established by sexual attraction, but as the play progresses and Deborah moves into Danny's apartment, they are unable to talk with each other seriously. The characters' relationships become hindered by the caustic nature of their words, as much of the dialogue includes insults and arguments and a great deal of swearing.

A 2003 West End revival starred Matthew Perry (his stage debut in a West End production) Minnie Driver, Hank Azaria and Kelly Reilly.

The Bench Production

Sexual Perversity in Chicago poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Dan ShapiroNathan Chapman
Bernard LitkoDamon Wakelin
Deborah SolomanRobin Hall
Joan WebberLynda Fleming


Director Pete Woodward
Producer Alice Corrigan
Stage Manager Martin McBride
Assistant Stage Manager Jeff Bone
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Derek Callam
Sound Recordist Darryl Wakelin
Sound Operation Sharman Callam
Costumes Sue Dawes
TV Voice Alan Welton
Set Design David Penrose
Poster Peter Woodward
Publicity Jaspar Utley
Programme Editor Derek Callam
Photographs Bill Whiting
Front of House Sharman Callam

Director's Notes

As some of our regular patrons, and most of the Bench members will already know, my enthusiasm for the works of David Mamet borders on the obsessive. I refuse to apologise for this. I blame, entirely, those members of the Bench who, in 1983, organised a trip to the National Theatre in London to see a new play called 'Glengarry Glen Ross'.

So impressed was I that, a few years later (1992), I somehow persuaded the company to allow me to direct the play here. Its success then relied solely on a superb, committed group of actors, and now I have a similar, only younger, team for 'Sexual Perversity in Chicago'.

The ability to have characters appear to be speaking words they have only just thought about in immediate response to a particular situation or another character's utterance, I find fascinating and in my experience no one does this better than David Mamet. It may seem to an audience there actually exists no script, that what is happening on stage is random and improvised but, of course, it is not. The text is written as you will hear it - every word.

All scripts are hard to learn, but I would fancy that a text by Mamet is harder than most: its broken, overlapping, naturalistic rhythms demanding an accuracy and precision from the actors that test the most talented.

I am proud to have had four such actors put themselves forward to make this play with me and all the others mentioned in this programme. I am grateful to them all for their help.

Preparing and rehearsing Sexual Perversity in Chicago has, for me, been exciting, rewarding and, above all, enjoyable. I hope you find this evening just as good.

Pete Woodward


The NewsDavid Roberts


The Bench Theatre gave an excellent performance of David Mamet's masterpiece. The cast of four all gave winning performances in this hilarious-yet-profound play. David Mamet is brilliant both on characterisation and dialogue and this was the foundation of the play, dealing with relationships and sexual mores in a warm and witty manner.

Damon Wakelin gave a great performance as the laddish fantasist Bernard. He was well supported by Nathan Chapman as his more sophisticated friend, Dan, and Robin Hall as Dan's attractive girlfriend, Deborah. Lynda Fleming completed the cast as Joan, the jealous flatmate of Deborah. The short, sharp scenes were cleverly joined together by some atmospheric jazz music in this beautifully directed play.

The News, 6th October 2004

Production Photographs